Monthly Archives: June 2008

Musings on a motor trip in S.C., Ga. and Fla.

The Road Warrior and his wife, the Judybaker, spent two weeks driving a rental car around eastern South Carolina, Georgia and Florida recently. Here are some musings on the experience:

– I was told it was flat, and that’s for sure. When roads are built in the Northwest, designers try to balance the dirt removed in cuts through hills with that needed to fill the valleys, limiting the amount of dirt that has to be hauled and minimizing elevation changes for drivers. I don’t think I saw a single highway cut in any of the three Southern states. They all had to be built up with the shoulders sloping gently downward. I wondered where they got the dirt.

– Those freeways are unique in my experience. You can drive for miles without seeing signs of civilization, not counting the freeway itself. The shoulders are bordered in thickets of palm, long-leaf pines and other vegetation that kept me from seeing whether there were houses and businesses behind them or just more of the ubiquitous marshes that cover most of the coast. Interchanges were often 10 miles or so apart.

– The medians and shoulders were among the most litter-free I’ve ever seen, especially along I-95 in Georgia. And the pavement and medians were wide and well kept.

– I saw an interesting wrinkle on traffic signals at one (and just one) spot along Highway 170 south of Beaufort, S.C. The speed limit was 50 mph, and the red light had a white ring around it that blinked, calling attention to the light. Seemed like a good idea for all stop signals.

– South Carolina’s low, marshy topography requires lots of bridges and it is far enough north that they can have freezing weather in the winter. I puzzled for a while over signs reading “Bridge Ices Before Roadway,” wondering what bridge ices are and why they would be put before the roadway. I realized shortly that it’s just their way of saying “Watch for Ice” on an upcoming bridge.

– People tend to notice cars of the same model as the one’s they own or are driving, so we were predisposed to see Priuses and Mazda 3s, which we own, and PT Cruisers, one of which Dollar rental cars provided us. It was silver colored.
The Prius also is much in vogue, with gas prices jumping so steeply. They are increasingly common in Kitsap County.
I was in Beaufort, home of the Parris Island Marine recruit center, for three days before I saw a Prius there, and saw only six in seven days there. I didn’t spot a single Prius in four days in Orlando, and only one in three days on the Space Coast around Titusville and Cocoa Beach, Fla.
I wonder if there’s some cultural thing in the South that keeps the Prius from selling.
Mazda 3s were commonplace, and I came to suspect silver PT Cruisers are the state car of Florida, or at least are revered in Orlando. They were all over the place. I also had never noticed how many there around here until I got back. Yet, Chrysler will stop making it after 2009, according to Wikpedia, calling it a “now slow-selling vehicle.”

– After four days in Orlando, I was still completely turned around about which direction to go to get places. It began with Interstate 4 being designated an east-west highway even though it runs north-south (like Highway 16 here).
Our motel was near Universal Orlando. I wonder if any of you readers have ever driven around Orlando and found it similarly confusing.

Where did patriotic banners on bridge go?

The in basket: Ann Lafair writes, “There were some flags on the Warren Avenue Bridge poles that honored some of the Kitsap County people who died fighting in Iraq. They were there for some time, although I do not recall how long.  They have been gone for several months now.” 
She wonders why.
The out basket: The city moved them to a spot that provides a better chance for drivers to notice and read them, and where wind won’t wear on them so much, says Bob Tulp, operations manager for Bremerton public works.
That spot is at and near the intersection of Highway 304 and Farragut Avenue near the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard gate on its west end.
“We determined with Lynn George that the speed limit on the bridge didn’t give people enough time to read them,” Bob said. “We wanted them near a stop light to give the public a real opportunity to see them.”
Lynette George heads Blue Star Banner Program of Kitsap County, the organization that has campaigned to get the recognition banners displayed on local streets. Gold stars denote those “who have given the ultimate sacrifice and died while serving,” as George’s Web site puts it, and will be displayed indefinitely. Blue star banners recognize someone serving in the military, who will be presented with the banner when he or she gets out.
“Lynn goes out and gets the money and works with the government entities to get them hung,” Bob said. “When our staff goes out and hangs them on a Saturday, we are donating our time and equipment.” There is often a ceremony when a gold star banner is hung, if the family wishes, he said. A motorcycle group often takes part.
The flags were on the bridge for a year or less before being moved several months ago, he said.
Learn more about the program at www.kitsapbluestar.org or (360) 440-6497

She can’t get the radio message in North Kitsap

The in basket: Gwen Duzenski writes, “I travel north on Highway 3 every day and lately the large information sign just has a message about tuning to 530 on the radio for bridge information.  I can’t get any information on 530 AM on the radio and I wonder what is going on.” All she gets on that frequency on her 2003 Subaru’s radio at that location is static, she said.
The big sign was blank over the weekend but the referral to 530 AM returned Monday, when she had no better luck on that frequency, she said.
She’d like to see it return to how it was, “so it will let us know when the Hood Canal bridge is open for marine traffic like it did before,” Gwen said.
The out basket: Lisa Murdock of the state highway’s Olympic Region said a state technician tested that HAR (for Highway Advisory Radio) transmission Monday and found it to be working properly. “He increased the power by two watts to see if that helps,” she said, “but it could be a matter on the receiving end.”
The HAR broadcasts cover only a limited area and
“depending on the location of the vehicle tuning in, as well as the quality of the
vehicle’s AM reception, at times highway advisory radio messages are
difficult to tune to,” she said.
Gwen needn’t worry about missing an important mention of traffic disruption on the bridge, Lisa said. “(We use) HARs for public service announcements only secondary to real-time traffic information. Information about marine openings that impede vehicle traffic would be conveyed over the HAR instead of the PSA, if the situation warranted.
“All of our HARs run PSAs when there is no real-time traffic
to report. We feel it’s a good way to get out important messages. That
said, we only turn on the flashing beacons or (big electronic signs) that tell you to tune
in, for real-time traffic or important ferry info.
That includes the public service message that was running on the HAR last week. It
explained to motorists some options for travel being considered
during the May-June 2009 closure of the Hood Canal Bridge, Lisa said. “It let
listeners know how to go about participating in a survey reviewing the
options. Visit www.hoodcanalbridge.com for more information.
“If ever you have questions about the current conditions of the Hood
Canal Bridge you can visit http://wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/hoodcanal/
or call the toll-free hot line at 800-419-9085,” she added.